One of the day to days that most Americans hardly ever question is using the phone. We know there are telephone companies and there’s the FCC, but the relationship between each and in the case of cell phone companies cell towers, is rarely considered. What we often consider is data packages and the latest innovations provided by the manufacturers of the latest model and we change plans accordingly. But there is one place that the most basic of phone service causes agony and fear and desire and that is in prison.
Whatever you think of inmates their family and friends are out there and they haven’t been convicted of anything. Yet the family and friends are regularly taken advantage of by a system out to make a buck. More than a buck.
The judicial system has gone back and forth about the purpose of incarceration. At times prisons have been looked at as facilities for those convicted to serve their sentence while their rehabilitation into the society’s norms is attempted. And at other times prisons have been looked at as warehouses for those convicted to serve their sentence. Solely.
If you are of the opinion that rehabilitation must be attempted, not only for our claim to be human, but in an attempt to cut the recidivism rate, then using the phone is useful tool both for the inmate and those desiring to maintain contact with the inmate.
In prison, visits from the outside and using the phone are the two contact lifelines that aid in any sort of semblance while locked behind those concrete walls. The phone is unfortunately, not only a useful tool, but an extremely expensive one. Using the phone in prison means no competitive bidding, no alternate plans, just often a phone rate anywhere from thirty to seventy-five cents per minute.
Of course those with economic means that find themselves in prison can afford using the phone. But the prison phone rates are a serious burden on the poor. Prison, the great equalizer, unfortunately also promotes income inequality.
“Merely to add funds to an account, the family or friends of inmates must pay a service fee. I have an account myself with the prison phone giant Securus so that inmates I want to keep in touch with can call me. In February, I’d loaded my phone account without any fee. Then, a few weeks ago, I was charged $6.95 to add $5 of call time. So, the $11.95 that used to buy 49 minutes then purchased only 20.”
“It is hard to determine exactly how the fees are being applied: The commissions system is opaque, with the prison itself collecting a portion of the companies’ revenues, leading the companies to charge more service fees to an inmate’s phone account to make up the difference.”
“The phone companies’ strategy was clear before the F.C.C.’s rate cap kicked in. Last year, Securus acquired JPay, one of the nation’s largest prison financial services providers. JPay handles financial transactions for 70 percent of prison inmates; its fees are as high as 35 to 45 percent of the money being sent. JPay could potentially charge a fee to create a JPay account to pay the service fee to load a Securus phone account.”
“It’s not just that this system is exploitative and cruel, taking from those who have little enough already. But this profiteering is also imposing costs on society. It’s been established that regular contact between inmates and their friends and family on the outside lowers the rate of reoffending upon release. So, if that contact is rationed because of phone company profiteering, the result is more recidivism.” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/21/opinion/the-prison-commercial-complex.html?emc=edit_th_20160321&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=63667984&_r=0